Saudi minerals – diversifying away from oil

9 May 2022

The Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources intends to attract investments worth $32bn to its mining and minerals sector through nine key projects.

The projects aim to support supplies of mineral products to local and international markets, according to Bandar Alkhorayef, Minister of industry and mineral resources.

The minister said the projects would create more than 14,500 jobs. The ministry is now processing 145 exploration license applications from foreign companies.
Saudi Arabia has the largest mineral deposits in the Middle East. In the west of the country, the Arabian Shield is a major source of precious and basic minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc, chromium, manganese, tungsten, lead, tin, aluminium and iron.
The move is in line with the kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030, which seeks to diversify its economy away from oil by investing hundreds of billions of dollars in various sectors. This plan was promoted in 2016 by Prince Mohammed bin Salman and aims to reduce its economic dependence on the sale of hydrocarbons and diversify its sources of income through the development of non-oil sectors. In order to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2060, the country must focus on reducing its activity in the oil sector. An industry that currently accounts for more than 40% of the country’s GDP, making it the third largest exporter of hydrocarbons in the world.

 Alkhorayef said: “Our mission in the ministry is to work on benefiting from mining resources and develop a sustainable mining sector capable of competing at the global level. This needs to support economic development, job creation, and industry development on a larger scale. These projects are consistent with our ambition to become a leading centre for mining and metallurgical industries, and contribute to the growth of Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole.”Saudi Arabia has also  launched a National Geological Database, which provides online access to 80 years’ worth of national records of geological, geophysical and geochemical information, including thousands of detailed reports on mining targets and prospects.

The projects that are currently being implemented as part of the targeted investments include a steel plate factory with investments of more than $4bn, which aims to supply to a shipbuilding factory in the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services in Ras al-Khair.

Another project includes a factory worth $2bn for electric car batteries. Meanwhile, $1bn has been allocated to other projects to produce metals such as aluminium, steel sheets, copper, and zinc, which are expected to increase local demand as part of the kingdom’s industrialisation strategies.

Alkhorayef also pointed out that the value of the targeted investments from the ministry follow up on previous successes in developing the mining sector, which witnessed investments of more than $26bn in aluminium and phosphates. The Saudi Minister indicated that the Mansoura and Masarah gold mines are likely to start operating in 2022. In addition, one of the Ma’aden mines, worth more than $880m, will work on an annual production of 250,000 ounces of gold and silver.